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Background: A reengineering approach to intravenous drug and fluid administration processes could improve anesthesia care. In this initial study, current intravenous administration tasks were examined to identify opportunities for improved design.

Methods: After institutional review board approval was obtained, an observer sat in the operating room and categorized, in real time, anesthesia providers' activities during 35 cases (~90 h) into 66 task categories focused on drug/fluid tasks. Both initial room set-up at the beginning of a typical workday and cardiac and noncardiac general anesthesia cases were studied. User errors and inefficiencies were noted. The time required to prepare de novo a syringe containing a mock emergency drug was measured using a standard protocol.

Results: Drug/fluid tasks consumed almost 50 and 75%, respectively, of the set-up time for noncardiac and cardiac cases. In 8 cardiac anesthetics, drug/fluid tasks comprised 27 /- 6% (mean /- SD) of all prebypass clinical activities. During 20 noncardiac cases, drug/fluid tasks comprised 20 /- 8% of induction and 15 /- 7% of maintenance. Drug preparation far outweighed drug administration tasks. Inefficient or error prone tasks were observed during drug/fluid preparation (e.g., supply acquisition, waste disposal, syringe labeling), administration (infusion device failure, leaking stopcock), and organization (workspace organization and navigation, untangling of intravenous lines). Anesthesia providers (n = 21) required 35 /- 5 s to prepare a mock emergency drug.

Conclusions: Intravenous drug and fluid administration tasks account for a significant proportion of anesthesia care, especially in complex cases. Current processes are inefficient and may predispose to medical error. There appears to be substantial opportunity to improve quality and cost of care through the reengineering of anesthesia intravenous drug and fluid administration processes. General design requirements are proposed.

(C) 2002 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.